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As Russia’s war against Ukraine, with its ensuing genocide and flagrant war crimes’ surpasses its first month, the West appears to be recovering from an identity crisis. Many Putin defenders in the Free World label the Ukrainian state as a “globalist” tool and look to the Russian despot as a force against “globalism.” There is a grave contradiction in that reasoning. Ukraine and the principle of national sovereignty and democratic values may well turn out to be a needed revival for the West.
For semantic precision, the West is not about geography. It is a standard-bearer for a set of values that foster notions of consensual government, free societies, the rule of law, and natural rights. The antitheses to this social-political prototype, versions of totalitarian or authoritarian autocratic rule, have benefited enormously from the post-World War II order of a global commonwealth. This internationalist paradigm has been underlined by the premise that economic relations are primacy instigators of political conduct. China, Vietnam, the former USSR, Putin’s Russia, and political actors like George Soros, have been prime beneficiaries of this model. This globalist paragon is anti-Western. This is the “globalism” that Putin apologists fail to see.
When good-intentioned Russian supporters argue that Ukraine is in the Eurasian country’s “sphere of influence”, they are trampling on the principles of self-governance and nationhood. While ironically, many of these Putin worshipers label themselves as “nationalists”, they are negating the basis of a nation’s right to exist territorially. In other words, they are perverting nationalism to fit a skewed historical and ideological narrative. One cannot be a nationalist in your country and believe that Ukraine and Ukrainians are not entitled to the same standards of sovereignty.
The globalist world order that made China the world’s factory and Russia, the European Union’s oil and gas provider, is ethically anti-Western. Despotic regimes like the Chinese and Russian have been prized winners of the “peace dividend” that followed the fall of Soviet communism. This view of a world order prioritized global commercial accommodations and believed that evildoers could be civilized by their financial entanglements with the West. The opposite has occurred. The non-democratic regimes in Russia and China have used their leverage against the Free World to advance their hegemonic objectives. The latter has been more furtive and asymmetrical. The former, not having the financial backup and being more time-constrained, resorted to more direct tactics.
Post-Soviet Russian armed aggression against other countries includes Moldova and Transnistria (1990-1992), Georgia (2008), Ukraine (2014-present) and Syria (2015-present). Through cyberwar, the Putin regime has attacked Estonia (2007), Lithuania (2008), Georgia (2008), Kyrgyzstan (2009), Kazakhstan (2009), Ukraine (2014-present), Germany (2015), and the U.S. (1996-present). Putin’s Russia quickly rebuilt its relationship with communist Cuba, as well as established subversive partnerships with other socialist dictatorships in Venezuela and Nicaragua. Iran and its Hezbollah militias are de facto Russian foreign legion troops.
Ukraine, and its moral crusade against Russian tyranny, has opened the Free World’s eyes and prodded its mind. The global scheme that has so empowered China and Russia is being revisited and potentially deconstructed. This is the best thing that could happen to the West. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky recently spoke (remotely) before the U.N. and correctly raised a moral dilemma for the international organization. Having an “aggressor and a source of war from blocking decisions about its own aggression,” stated Zelensky when referring to Russia’s permanent seat in the U.N.’s Security Council and its ability to veto any effective remedy, presents a structural contradiction that undermines the institution’s mission. “If your current format is unalterable and there is simply no way out”, he added, “then the only option would be to dissolve yourself altogether.” The West has rediscovered its roots in Ukraine.
Julio M Shiling, political scientist, writer, director of Patria de Martí and The Cuban American Voice, lecturer and media commentator. A native of Cuba, he currently lives in the United States. Twitter: @JulioMShiling // Julio es politólogo, escritor, director de Patria de Martí y The Cuban American Voice. Conferenciante y comentarista en los medios. Natural de Cuba, vive actualmente en EE UU.